May 25, 2020
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Pakistani Thali

Pakistani Thali
BEING a vegetarian is not easy in Pakistan. The air-hostesses on board Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights smile beautifully even when they have nothing to serve you. The man in the telecom centre offers me a samosa. "What is it made of?" "Beef." I hesitate. He is puzzled. His colleague nudges him and whispers: "He is from India.

Must be a Hindu. They don't eat beef." The man nods his head sympathetically. We smile at each other with understanding, and some compassion.The cook at the guesthouse is a nice bloke. I ask him: "Have you got anything vegetarian?" He has some difficulty in comprehending what that means. "Can you make me an egg curry, at least?" "Sure. But how do you make it? Just tell me, and I'll make it for you in a jiffy." Mercifully, this is the season of luscious mangoes and delicious watermelon. Pity, pomegranates are not available round the year! I could live off them in Pakistan for days, maybe weeks too. They're so good in these parts.

So, lunch at the Marriott's coffee shop, Nadia, is a must whenever I'm in the Pakistani capital. The vegetarian thali they serve is adequate. And the pianist plays haunting tunes from Hindi films, both old and new. Jaoon kahaan bataaye dil..., Yeh pyaar ka nagma hai..., Panchi banoon, udta phi -roon mast gagan mein..., Yeh mera prem patr padh kar..., and Pardesia.... I wonder: where am I, in India or Pakistan?

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